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Follow trends and research to increase networking innovations

Organizations can witness network transformations if they are aware of market trends, research and disruptive technologies. Many turn to third parties for this information.

Disruptive technologies, such as software-defined WAN, unified communications as a service and cybersecurity, are reshaping the enterprise networking market. To better understand the implications of these technologies on the industry, one should understand market trends and research.

Organizations that stay informed about industry trends and research can more easily adapt to new, disruptive technologies and enable networking innovations, according to the 2019 State of Disruption report from Avant Communications -- a technology distributor based in Chicago -- which surveyed 300 U.S. enterprise decision-makers. The report and most of the organization's research revolve around studying industry change, digital transformation (DX) and keeping users up to date on new technologies, including SD-WAN, UCaaS and more.

"The world is hungry for analytics. They're hungry for trends," said Drew Lydecker, president and co-founder of Avant Communications. "They're hungry for understanding this kind of new world we live in, where the only constant is the rate of change -- and the rate of change is increasing."

Drew LydeckerDrew Lydecker

To assist in decision-making processes amid this increasing rate of change, many of the respondents said they turned to third parties for help, according to the report. For example, 82% said they used a third-party partner to help make decisions about cloud services, SaaS and voice telecommunications. Enterprises were more likely than smaller organizations to use third-party services, Avant said.

Change is the only constant in networking innovations

Ken PrestiKen Presti

In addition to Avant's report, the company recently launched a market research initiative called Avant Analytics, which looks at emerging trends, such as cloud services, colocation, SD-WAN, UCaaS and security. Avant will package that information for both enterprise customers and Avant's channel partners. The partners -- called Trusted Advisors -- aim to provide additional insight into specific technologies and trends to C-suite executives, said Ken Presti, lead analyst for the Avant Analytics initiative.

Overall, SD-WAN is the most disruptive technology of 2019, with 74% of respondents indicating they plan to adopt SD-WAN by the end of year. While organizations embraced disruptive technologies in 2019 at a significantly faster rate than in 2018, only about half of respondents said they feel confident in their DX strategy, according to the report.

While 85% of respondents said their organizations have a DX plan, only 55% are extremely confident in that plan. Respondents from enterprises and other large organizations were more likely to have a plan and feel confident in it. Factors that contributed to lower confidence included a lack of internal IT resources and expertise, as well as an insufficient budget dedicated to networking innovations, Avant said.

A shortage of internal IT expertise and resources can impede an organization's DX plan because the market grows and changes rapidly, causing many organizations without dedicated staffs to struggle to keep up with advances. Staying aware of industry changes in this era of constant and competitive networking innovations helps organizations avoid confusion and ensure they invest in technologies and services well-suited to their networks, Lydecker said.

74% of enterprise decision-makers surveyed plan to adopt SD-WAN by the end of 2019.

"Trying to figure out where the market is going and what type of technology you can bring in that can fundamentally change your company forever is something [enterprise customers are] super interested in," Lydecker said.

Respondents said they look for technology that increases network flexibility, agility, efficiency and scalability, according to Avant. Teams also wanted to reduce costs, receive productivity gains and increase ROI. Challenges that teams faced included insufficient budgets and network planning.

The effect of disruptive technologies and market research

While SD-WAN was seen as the most disruptive technology in this report, other technological trends, such as UCaaS and security, are also constantly in the limelight. IT teams that keep up with new trends and technologies are more equipped to make the best decisions for their networks. A major part of this awareness is to follow and understand market research, something Avant intends to help with through its new initiative, Presti said.

"We began with a survey that looked at key technologies and some major aspects of those technologies -- around rollouts, who's already deployed and what they're planning to do looking forward -- so we could see what the different stories are," Presti said.

One such story reflects the resilience of legacy technology. Technology changes at a rapid pace, and legacy technology can become ancient history in as short as a decade. However, some technologies aren't going down without a fight.

MPLS, for example, is simultaneously threatened and unaffected by SD-WAN, which creates a virtual overlay network that can use multiple underlying WAN connections, including MPLS. While SD-WAN certainly disrupts the networking market, many IT teams still rely on MPLS, and 40% of respondents said they plan to increase their MPLS network infrastructure in 2019, Avant said.

Yet other trends, such as UCaaS, are unfaltering in their disruption. "[UCaaS] is a technology right now that's not a matter of if -- it's a matter of when you're going to go to it," Lydecker said.

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